Mar 19, 2019

Virtual Agents in the Augmented Age


Virtual Agents in the Augmented Age

When we first think of robots and artificial intelligence, there’s a tendency to imagine a distant future of sophisticated machines that look mostly human, walking upright on two legs. These Hollywood machines of our imaginations can mimic a human with conversational ability and perhaps even human-like beauty. However, the reality is that we’ve already entered a future with robotics and artificial intelligence taking hold in our day-to-day lives. We’re living in an augmented age, with many of us already having robotics and AI in our homes. 

Recently, world-renowned futurist and speaker Brett King walked us through a vast range of examples of how AI is already a part of our lives, integrated into everything from our health to our wealth, and outlined how it may also impact industries now, and in the near future.

The Augmented Age

“Can I afford to go out to dinner tonight, Alexa?” Perhaps one of the most ubiquitous examples of virtual assistance that has integrated into our lives is Amazon Alexa or Siri. From knowing our schedule to completing simple information gathering and task completion, virtual assistants are being quickly adopted by technophiles and average families alike. We might think our comfort with artificial intelligence comes in baby steps, but the reality is technology improves in leaps each and every year, personalizing to our habits and preferences, and becoming more commonplace in homes and handbags. Of course, one of the best day-to-day examples of robotics in our homes is the robotic vacuum. Nearly 30% of all vacuums sold are now robotic, busily cleaning underfoot without us even having to think about them. The usefulness of AI and robotics is key to its adoption.

Embedded screens in our appliances and smart glasses may be the next examples to be widely accepted. Smart watches have already taken hold, but they soon will be able to accurately predict health outcomes using information gathered about us through wear. For example, using existing medical information and statistical data sets, and comparing against the information it can gather from our bodies, a smart watch will be able to accurately predict if you’re going to have a heart attack. The impact this will have on preventative medicine, and the rate these tools will be adopted, is significant.

This is a simple example of AI in the health sphere; but more complex possibilities are arising as well. Artificial intelligence learns quite similarly to a human; using photographs and data. This means its ability in health diagnoses is as accurate or more accurate than a human mind. Consider the impact to cancer diagnoses, which are completed using blood work, images, and other tests. The capability to teach AI to review these pieces of information like humans would, can ultimately provide an incredible resource to the medical community. 

The Human Agent vs the Virtual Agent 

While robots and AI are busily integrating into our homes and health, industry is quickly adjusting in the augmented age as well. Our transportation systems are on the precipice of massive change. Perhaps you immediately think of the self-driving car. This tool might replace a taxi or a bus, or provide you some extra time to send emails on your way to the office. However, thinking more broadly it is certain that self-driving vehicles will deeply impact industry, with the supply chain being a remarkable example of just how augmented our future might become. From drones, to self-driving trucks and ships, to robots capable of picking and packing in a warehouse, investments in AI can create major cost reductions and improvements to efficiency in the transportation of goods. Imagine how a chatbot can integrate into this system, potentially informing your customers with a human-like conversation, about the location of their packages with pin-point accuracy. 

Considering the impact of artificial intelligence, chatbots and virtual agents across dozens of industries, we are set to witness the most significant change to how we work since the industrial revolution. In particular, we must wonder; what will happen to service industry jobs? Wide-ranging changes are imminent here. Nothing is safe; insurance adjusters to McDonald’s employees will be impacted by AI and the virtual employee. Do humans become less necessary the more we teach our artificial intelligence tools?

This episode of Solving for CX will get you imagining the future—from Hollywood robots to drone shipping—and how your business might evolve as a result. Consider that this ‘future’ is as near as 2025, and how investments in chatbots or virtual employees might improve your customers’ experiences. A key takeaway? One of the best ways to prepare for the future is to invest in data now. To teach AI, you must have good data; about your customers, about your products, and about how your business runs efficiently. Investing in that data now sets you up to teach your AI in the future. As your customer becomes more and more accustomed to interacting with artificial intelligence, appreciating and expecting their level of accuracy and efficiency, the virtual assistant and chatbot becomes one of the most important items in your customer service toolbox. 


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